Investigating Portland, Oregon’s Coffee Scene
Although many folks in the U.S. would most likely point to Seattle if asked to identify the coffee nexus of the country, the city of Portland actually has a more diverse and deeply ingrained coffee culture than its bigger sister to the North.
The Portland coffee scene can originally be traced back to the establishment of Portland’s first specialty roaster and wholesale coffee distributor in 1984, and to the first chain of espresso carts and shops not long thereafter. And though both of those pioneering businesses have since been acquired by larger corporations, their impact on the local scene can still be felt today.
In the decades that have followed, the espresso cart scene has given way to the proliferation of specialty cafes, the corporate takeover of coffee culture, the re-establishment of Portland’s indie coffee scene and the current abundance of micro-roasters, destination coffee businesses, and coffee tours.
These days, just about every neighborhood in inner Portland has at least one and as many as five to ten independently owned coffee shops, bakeries, or cafes, featuring the best of what the city has to offer both coffee connoisseurs and neophytes alike.
PDX Roasters and MicroRoasters
Yesterday’s small roasters are today’s big coffee companies — it’s happening all across the country. What began as independent, small-batch roasting companies in the 1970s and 1980s are now Portland’s biggest, yet perhaps least-known players in the coffee scene.
Companies like Kobos and Coffee Bean International still roast and deliver tremendous amounts of coffee to local coffee shops, retail businesses, and restaurants. But the real action in the Portland coffee scene is centered on the area’s microroasters.
Duane Sorenson may have cashed in his Stumptown Coffee brand, but the void left in the indie scene by his departure has been filled by a diverse array of relative newcomers like Cellar Door, Ristretto Roasters, and Courier Coffee. These local, small batch roasters are supplying incredible, often fair-trade or direct-trade, sometimes organic, sometimes shade-grown, coffee to many of Portland’s best coffee shops and cafes.
Cafes and Coffee Shops in Portland
As mentioned above, these days you can pretty much rely on the fact that wherever you are in inner-city Portland, you are within easy walking distance of at least one decent (if not excellent) coffee shop. And, depending on the relative-affluence and youth of the neighborhood you’re in, you may have as many as five or six options to choose from.
Standout coffee shops in the greater Portland area include Barista’s four locations in downtown and the NE Alberta arts district, Coava’s two Southeast Portland locations, See See Motorcycles and Coffee in the middle of town, the Albina Press’s two locations in Southeast and North Portland, and the Bipartisan Café out in Montavilla.
Portland Is a Great Place to Experience Contemporary Coffee Culture
Portland has such a richly developed contemporary coffee culture that alongside the various cuppings offered around town, there are also coffee tours for out-of-towners and Portlanders alike. It may have taken several decades from germination to fruition, but Portland’s coffee culture is something many locals couldn’t live without, and something to be experienced if you come in from out of town with a well-developed love for the bean.